Commissioners Court

Rusk County Commissioners approved a revision in the new voting equipment Tuesday.

In the wake of the November midterm elections, counties throughout the U.S. are taking stock of their election processes while legislators debate what should change to make elections more secure the next time around.

In the works for quite some time, Rusk County Elections Administrator Kathie Wittner was already thinking ahead, bringing the need for new voting machines to commissioners in August 2017.

The new machines will be a lot smaller and include advanced technology.

“There are two big bills coming before the legislature this year wanting to require that all counties have a paper audit trail,” said Wittner. “The new voting machine will work like we’ve seen before and the only difference will be that when the voter makes their selection a little card will be inserted and it will print everything on their machine to show how they voted.”

The voter will then be able to look at the physical card and put it into the tabulator machine.

“The tabulator machine then tabulates all the votes put into that machine,” Wittner said. “Now the voter has the ability to look at their ballot and make sure everything was selected as it was on the screen and if it’s not they have the opportunity to go back and fix it.”

The machines are provided by Election Systems & Software, a Nebraska-based company that manufactures and sells voting machine equipment and services.

The costs of the machines will be paid for by the county and Wittner said the new quote is $30,000 less than what the original quote was for. In 2017, 100 new machines cost around $500,000 along with an annual maintenance fee of $35,000.

“Our office applauds ES&S for going a step further because with everything being talked about in the legislature we didn’t want to buy equipment that the state could turn around and say is not usable,” Wittner said. “We decided to go further with plans to get this equipment together so that it will work. He (Chris Moody with ES&S) even expedited the letter that we have to have approved by the Secretary of State before we can even purchase new equipment. The letter from the state says that this equipment is 100 percent certified by the state and federal and that the county is free to proceed with the purchase of new equipment.”

The purchase of new machines comes from current machines being outdated and slow.

“After this election season we are very leery about the current machines because they’re very slow and they just are out of date,” Wittner said.

The current voting machines were bought in 2006.

“We can even have less of these new machines because they can be used for early voting and on election day,” Wittner said. “We cannot do that with the current machines.”

The new machines could be here by the end of the year or early January. Wittner said ES&S will come and set up the new machines when they are delivered. Payment of the new machines will be decided by the court at a later date.

In other business, commissioners:

APPROVED an agreement to lease minerals to TieLand, LLC;

APPROVED Statement of Investment Policy;

APPROVED renewal agreement endorsement for Rusk County for the CodRed Weather Warning service. The price of this service has remained the same since 2009;

APPROVED to allow Mike Adams with MPA Fireworks, LLC to pop fireworks at the Expo Center on New Year’s Eve. The fireworks will take place at midnight following a fundraiser for the Henderson Civic Theatre.

APPROVED the pipeline/utility request:

a. KJECO, LLC proposes to place a 10-inch metal water transfer line by an overhead transfer system over County Road 3122.

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